Hurtling Across the Countryside

Ok, I have a new favorite way to travel — in a first class seat in a near-empty compartment while hurtling across the countryside at 302 kph. That was my morning and I loved every minute of it. 4 hours and 55 minutes to travel just over 800 miles. Imagine going from Minneapolis to Denver by train in 5 hours.  That’s it. I love it.

Here are some of my random observations from the trip down:

  • Departures and arrivals were on time, down to the minute. We stopped twice — in Jinan and Nanjing — for exactly 2 minutes each.  Not even long enough for the few blokes on the train to jump off and have a smoke.
  • The “Let’s Learn from Lei Feng” video that was playing on the monitor seemed a bit out of place in this 21st century train car. There he was, lifting the old truck off of the granny and dashing about the country doing good deeds.  Meanwhile, everyone on the train was staring at their smart phones or sleeping. Sorry, Mr. Lei….you just can’t compete anymore.  That video was eventually replaced with a 1980’s variety show. That was odd too.
  • The train would be a great way to see the countryside if only the air weren’t so foul. I don’t think I ever saw more than a half mile out beyond the tracks.
  • Just 50 minutes south of Beijing, the fields had a hint of green on them.  Of course, by that time we were almost 200 miles south already!
  • It was fascinating to see the physical and human geography change so rapidly. As we sped south, there was more green, more hills, and less ice on the ocassional bodies of water that were visible. The villages changed as well. Southern villages are more compact and most homes are 2 stories, and tend not to be surrounded by courtyards.
  • 302 kph is FAST — in fact, it’s a bit higher than the speed required for an airliner to take off!
  • It’s pretty tough to take a picture out the window at that speed.  The camera’s brain sort of melts down as it tries to figure out what’s going on.

Here are a few photos of the journey:









The “first class lounge” at the Beijing South station.  People were actually paying money to sit in those poofy chairs.











That’s my gear for a month of traveling.  Pretty impressive, eh?









My”Harmonious Train.” The back end, actually.









Proof! (and that’s just 10 minutes after departure)

Tomorrow:  some observations of Shanghai.

Have you been on any high-speed trains in China? What has been your experience?